HOW TO WRITE EXTREMELY HIGH-TRAFFIC POSTS
We’ve learned from experience how to rank and how to get people to our site.
Over the years, we’ve written hundreds of blog posts. The majority have gotten only a handful of hits. Ever. There are a select, glorious few that have far exceeded any and all expectations. Some weren’t even intended really for public consumption; they were simply written to outline a process we use in our business!
So that got me thinking: what DOES it take to get a blog post ranking highly? This page represents our process for gathering huge amounts of traffic as consistently as possible. This was not written using that process; it’s merely an outline for ourselves to stay on track! If it helps some others; great! But first and foremost, this is for us.
Before you begin, I highly recommend strictly defining the style and tone of your brand’s writing and sticking to that for all of your communications; including this blog post. I find that three adjectives/descriptions are all you need! I’ve decided these are ours:
I don’t feel like I’m an overly cynical person (or at least I try not to be), but somehow my writing always ends up that way. Go figure.
Disclaimer: there are going to be many things in here that are not popular opinions or even – depending on who you ask – technically accurate. But that’s okay! Just like the Oracle told Neo “exactly what he needed to hear,” I am telling you what you need to know to get you to write great articles.
Step 1: Pick a Topic
Picking the right topic is absolutely critical. Many topics will either be too popular and crowded to ever rank for or searched so infrequently that you could never hope to generate much traffic even if you’re number one in the SERPs. There is one main thing you are trying to accomplish here, and that’s generating more business, so start with the end in mind. With that being said:
Pick topics that will yield the highest numbers of converting customers.
What exactly does that mean? If your goal is to make money, then you’re shooting for the highest total value of all the people visiting. I don’t care about the total number of visitors, I don’t even care if you’re getting a huge number of visitors from your exact target market. If they don’t convert, what’s the point? On the flip side, even if a relatively small percentage of the visitors will convert, if you’re getting millions of hits per month, odds are this will still be one valuable page.
Now that you have this mindset, it’s time to start getting specific about what we should be looking for.
The following are all things you should do when choosing a topic:
Step 2: Write it
Now we’ve got to write this thing. It’s going to be a lot of work. We are going to need to touch on every single facet of this topic and mention every related concept or article. We are talking extreme thoroughness. And just free-associating concepts and writing them on paper is not going to be an adequate strategy to actually produce this. To that end, here is our process for planning it out.
A. Make a list of all the different topics and aspects of your article that are worth mentioning
And by “worth mentioning” I mean, “could possibly be construed as at all relevant to the conversation”. We want everyone, and I mean EVERYONE who clicks on your post to find the exact thing they’re looking for, somewhere in there. If you were writing an article about which trailer hitch to buy for your boat trailer, you should make it a point to mention every type of trailer, every type of boat, AND every type of truck that could possibly be used. This strategy is both more specific (“relevant” in Google speak) AND helps you cast a much larger net for potential visitors. It’s kind of like the old days of SEO where you’d just list every single city in your state in your footer and magically start appearing in the search results for those cities, except that Google won’t blacklist you for it! (They won’t really blacklist you for the former, either, it just probably won’t help you a ton.)
If you were writing an article about how large of a house to buy, some obvious sections to include right off the bat would be:
– Differing family sizes and their needs
– Differing levels of entertaining visitors
– Income and budgeting
– Additional house features desired
– Climate and utilities
– Geography and location
– Life phase and whether they might be interested in upgrading later
– Maintenance ability
– Storage needs
I could go on and on, but you probably get the point. These are just some preliminary topics you would want to include. We aren’t going to want to just blurt out an answer to the topic at hand, we want to address every possible use case and even fringe possibility. This is all it takes to convince Google we’re the most relevant result.
B. Check out the top ranking articles
You’re going to want to Google your target term and take a look at what’s out there. The higher-quality they are, the more you’ve got your work cut out for you. But the purpose of this step is to start generating ideas of what you’ll be including. Check out a bunch and start writing down things you’ll want to include that you hadn’t thought of yet. Literally make a list! We’re going to be organizing this list soon into an outline.
In the eyes of Google, bigger is definitely better. So also check out how long the ranking articles are. We’re going to want to be longer! (Or as Google would say, “more thorough”)
Hemingway would have been a terrible SEO writer.
C. Search for relevant statistics and resources
You’ll want to find some background information that you can link to in the article. You don’t want to link to competitors, but if you include information from reliable and relevant sources, Google will trust you more. You can even reproduce excerpt or stats from these sources, as long as you’re not plagiarizing or violating any copyrights. Just link to the source. A handful of these sprinkled throughout your post will give you credibility and also help you fill out more information. For some topics, it’s possible that simply summarizing some research data is all it takes to rank #1!
D. Compile an outline
Now it’s time to take all the information we’ve gathered and put together an outline. This is the only way we can write such a beastly article without it coming off as totally random and poorly thought-out.
You’ll want to group overall categories of concepts and make sure everything flows logically. However, we aren’t writing a book or traditional article; we are preparing content for the web. There are many differences to take note of, but an important one is that nobody is going to be reading every word you write. They are going to skip around to the parts they need. This is part of why the outline is critical. It needs to be easy for people to locate the section they are interested in!
Google doesn’t necessarily care how logical the flow of information is, and getting traffic is initially our #1 priority, but once people visit, conversion is still critical so you’ll want it to make sense for humans as well.
E. Write it!
Here comes the heavy lifting. You’ve got your outline, so hopefully you’ll be able to just bust through this quickly. Just write a handful for each and every section, taking care to include any resources you intended to link to.
There are about a million resources out there on keyword density and other SEO micro-tips to help you. I’ve found you should just write naturally and cater it towards humans. The rest is just noise.
Now, technically you should really be catering the entire article using empathy for the reader. Why should they care? What value will this bring them? Are you giving them the right information? Everything you write should be written with that in mind. For an in-depth explanation on doing that as well as a far superior guide to writing in general, ready “Everybody Writes” by Ann Handley. She gives some similar (read: much better) advice on practical writing and she does it in a style that isn’t dripping with cynicism like mine.
F. Design it?
Truth be told, Google doesn’t care nearly as much as people about how pretty your post is. They do expect to see varied media, so including images, video, charts, and more are certainly helpful, but adding fancy colors, clip art, and various other additions won’t help you get traffic a whole lot.
For this reason, you may want to consider not putting a whole lot of time into the visual presentation of your article until it actually starts generating traffic. After all, there’s no guarantee it ever will! And there’s no sense optimizing the content for human viewing if no human is ever going to view it.
That being said, once you are generating traffic, it is quite important to make it look good, and have lots of distinctions between sections. A huge wall of text is not going to convert very well. There are lots of guru’s out there who do a good job with this, and it’s hard to emulate. You might consider checking out some of Ramit Sethi’s stuff; he is the king of long-winded articles that aren’t too hard to navigate through.
3. Optimize and Revise
Optimize your Title and Description for SEO
Right off the bat you are going to want to do some basic optimization on your post. Realistically, Title and description are the only ones that are going to matter a whole lot. There are some SEOs out there who would disagree but they’ve probably never heard of the Pareto Principal.
I could go on and on about what to do here, but others already have so no sense wasting my time. Just make sure your title includes your main keywords, sounds natural for an actual human to say, and isn’t crazy long. The description is not a ranking factor at all, so write it to entice people to visit.
Include an effective Call-to-Action
This is all for nothing if you don’t convert! You want to either be starting conversations with people and/or getting them on your newsletter. You’ll need a strong CTA to accomplish that.
I like to have a custom contact form right near the beginning of the article relating to what it’s about. For instance, I have a post that explains what to do if your WordPress website goes down. The CTA at the top invites visitors to submit their website URL and email address, and we will check on their website for them. This is effective because the barrier is small, and these are people whose sites are already offline and desperate for a solution. A huge percentage convert!
Once they are on your email list, you can begin marketing to them regularly and turning them into full-fledged clients.
You are going to need to regularly go back and make adjustments to your article in order to maintain regular traffic. You don’t want Google thinking it’s out-of-date! This is also a good opportunity to make corrections and adjustments for things that may no longer be true. This step can amplify the traffic you get, so make sure you do it! Every few months is more than adequate I think, though you should be posting regularly on your site besides this as well. Ideally every week, though it’s not critical. Fewer articles of incredible quality is better than short crap every week.
Add a Video
Google owns YouTube, and therefor gives huge priority to pages that have YouTube videos. It’s a real thing!
Ideally, this would be a video you’ve created that goes over specific aspects of this article, or even just summarizes it. Give it a similar title and embed it right on the page. I haven’t researched enough to know whether it should be unlisted or regular, but I’ve always just used regular. That way you can also add a link to the video description back to the blog post! Double points.
I heard somewhere that posts with video get something like 80% more traffic. I can’t be bothered to look it up, but rest assured it’s true!
If done right, you can generate huge amounts of traffic that will pay dividends for years. Putting a ton of effort into a single article has proven to have a tenfold return on the time investment over shorter articles for me.
That’s it… I don’t think we need much of a conclusion; nobody is going to read this part anyway because the useful information is already over. If you happened to read this part, you just learned that lesson!